Nāpili residents said they will take legal action against the county after the Maui County Council failed to follow through on an investigation into approvals for a massive Nāpili home.
“There is not a single citizen of our community that looks at this building every day and thinks that it’s compliant with the law,” Josh Downer of Nāpili Bay Community Association testified during the council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee meeting Thursday. “If this council will not follow through on the investigation and provide an independent legal analysis to our questions, then we will have to get a court to do so.”
Owned by developer Greg Brown, the eight-bedroom, 45-foot-tall house at 5385 Lower Honoapiʻilani Road drew strong community opposition in 2021 over its height and its intended short-term rental use. The unfinished, two-story home originally called for two rooftop pools, eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, along with multiple dens and media rooms.
County departments found that the building exceeded height and square footage limits. A stop work order was implemented late last year over potential violations. Months later, the issues were resolved, the order was lifted and the house is now compliant, officials said.
After continued community pushback, the council voted to approve an investigation into the Planning and Public Works departments over the home’s approvals.
Committee Chairwoman Tamara Paltin, whose residency seat covers West Maui, said the council had tried to procure an investigator in August, but there were no responses to a request for proposals. The council then asked three vendors for submittals.
“Ultimately only one vendor submitted a proposal in the amount of $92,000 plus GET, and so we declined that offer (because) it was pretty substantial,” Paltin said during the Thursday meeting.
Paltin echoed at the meeting that the council’s role is to legislate, and the body doesn’t have jurisdiction over the permits in the Brown development.
Planning Director Michele McLean on Thursday presented a timeline on the Brown development, along with community questions and county responses.
When asked by Council Member Mike Molina whether any corrective actions were taken within the Planning Department so the Brown house doesn’t happen again, McLean said staffers have combed through the issues.
“We went through it in great detail several times to really understand what happened and what got missed,” she said. “I think it’s pretty clear how those errors happened, and yes, we have made folks who review SMA as well as building plan reviewers aware, [of] things to look out for. And I can’t speak about discipline that was taken; I can say that appropriate action was taken.”
Now, any plans that push the 7,500 square foot limit should be checked with a supervisor. Also, when there are zoning standard questions, the supervisor should be consulted, McLean added.
When asked by Council Member Keani Rawlins-Fernandez whether the procedures should be “memorialized,” McLean said they could be added to standard operating procedure.
“It wouldn’t be a bad idea to document some of those into an SOP,” McLean said.
The county Planning and Public Works departments have maintained that errors were made but nothing illegal occurred. Brown has said the house is legal and all county rules were followed.
At the end of the meeting, Paltin deferred the item.
Maui resident Sam Small said the issue is far from over, though.
“Everything here is setting the stage for a catastrophic loss of the county in court. And the investigation was promised,” he said in testimony–to remove the need of the community to sue. “And the investigation hasn’t happened. This is not going to go away.”